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One of the magical qualities of digital photography is that it draws people together. People want pictures of the events and activities in which they participate with their children, other family members, friends, co-workers, etc., and then share those pictures with everyone they meet. You can “inject” yourself and your photography services into many of those events and activities and be welcomed by the participants because you didn’t use those opportunities to hard-sell them.
Consider this scenario: A divorced parent has taken his or her children to a park on their designated day to be together. The parent would love to have pictures, however, he or she doesn’t have a camera, only a cell phone. A person that just happens to be in the park too has a good DSLR camera with him or her and offers to take a few pictures of the parent and the children and send them to the parent via email, at no cost.
The person with the camera is actually a photographer in full marketing mode, looking for this exact opportunity. When the email arrives, it also contains a link to the photographer’s Web site. This personal and subtle approach works so well because the photographer put himself in a location where people want pictures of what they are doing and he didn’t try to sell, only assist, to solve a problem for someone. That is often more remembered by a potential customer than the free photos.
They are many locations, events and activities throughout your community where you can implement the same technique.
A playground filled with children and their watchful parents is a perfect location for this technique. Be aware, however, that you must tread lightly, as parents are very wary of strangers being in close proximity of their children or taking photographs for unsavory reasons that don’t need to be fully explained here. The insider’s secret of this technique (and for many of the others below) is to be accompanied by a child too. Parents are more likely to trust you if you are in the park for seemingly the same reason as they are. If you don’t have children, recruit a niece or nephew or a friend or neighbor’s kids that would be happy to have you take them to the park. Tell them you’ll bring back a bunch of pictures of their kids.
As you shoot pictures of your “child,” you can casually ask parents if they would like you to photograph their kids too. Don’t reveal that you’re a professional, but ask them for their email addresses, so you can send whatever photos you shoot. That communication is the appropriate time to introduce yourself as a professional and provide a link to your Web site.
Children’s Team Sports
The same technique applies to any organized children’s team sport: baseball, football, soccer, field hockey or whatever teams play regularly at the local athletic fields. You may not be able to have a child in the game, but you can always accompany a friend or neighbor that does, and shoot pictures of his or her child. This legitimizes you in the mind of other parents watching the competition. Take your time to approach other parents casually and don’t reveal your professional intent.
Adult’s Team Sports
You can approach local adult team sports with the same method. In this case, you probably don’t need an “accomplice” to help you break the ice; however, if you have the opportunity to accompany a friend or neighbor that plays on the softball league, then that is even better.
Every community has it share of fairs, festivals and similar events where you may be able to shoot “introductory” images of families and adults. Although many businesses, such as bars and lounges with happy hours, may not permit you to shoot on their premises (primarily so you don’t disturb the patrons), it’s worth a try to ask permission. Read the three-part PhotographyTalk.com article, Photography Tip—Recording the Restaurant Experience, Part 1, for more details about shooting in restaurants, bars, etc.
Opportunities at Weddings
If you’re a wedding photographer, then try to reserve some time to discover and photograph other couples that are guests, but could become customers. Print some free images, again, with your contact information on the back. Ask your wedding client to give the prints to those couples as gifts for attending the wedding. You can also offer the newlyweds a free portrait on their first anniversary in exchange for helping you market your services to their guests.